A Sportsman Being Gay or Bi-sexual Shouldn’t Matter: But it is Wonderful That it Does

By
Updated: December 4, 2013
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A Great British diver (not Ashley Young; the aquatic type) called Tom Daley revealed today via YouTube that he is in a relationship with a man.

No, he hasn’t “admitted that he’s in a relationship with a man”: he has come out of the closet. Tom Daley is a bisexual. He still fancies girls but is in love with another man. However, people still feel the need to “protect” him by dressing it up with lots of superfluous words.

Society has started to progress from the days when homosexuality was illegal. Some people in this world still think that homosexuality is wrong but now it seems the overwhelming majority are accepting gay people for who they are. However, many people in this world still believe that homosexuals are so vulnerable and this is such a touchy topic that they must constantly defend “people who are attracted to the same gender” in the same way that Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker might defend Wojciech Szczesny’s goal for Arsenal.

A study was done by the Pew Research Center where over 40,000 people in thirty-nine different countries were asked “should society accept homosexuality?”

These are the results:

http://www.pewglobal.org/2013/06/04/the-global-divide-on-homosexuality/

These statistics show that in Western Europe, Asia, North America and Latin America, homosexuality is becoming accepted in society. However, in Russia, the Middle East, Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan being gay is still considered unacceptable by nearly everyone. The fact that South Africa and Israel were shown to be the most tolerant countries of homosexuality in their respective continents by a country mile is very worrying.

Interestingly, the ten least tolerant countries in this poll are some of the most religious countries in the world: with the number of people claiming to be of any religion (approximately according to each country’s most recent census) ranging between 94-99%. In eight of those ten countries homosexuality is either illegal or homosexuals can face legal challenges not experienced by straight people.

Particularly in Christianity, but in some other religions as well, homosexuality is becoming more acceptable. The Catholic Church is even starting to soften its view with Pope Francis saying in July that gay people (and more specifically gay priests) are “our brothers” and that he does not judge them, saying;

“When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them?

“They shouldn’t be marginalised. The tendency [towards homosexuality] is not the problem … they’re our brothers.”

It should be pointed out that Pew did a very similar study in 2007 and this recent study has shown that gains have been made in tolerance. Even in some of the countries with the lowest percentages in this poll have made gains of some sort since 2007.

But in sport there is still a problem with homosexuality. Very few sportsmen have either come out in their career or even at all.

British cyclist Graham Obree, who won two Individual Pursuit World Championships and broke the cycling hour record twice in his career, could well have gone on to have been one of the greatest track cyclists ever; but his refusal to take performance enhancing drugs caused his career to fade away before he could really live up to his potential.

He had known he was gay throughout his career and, coupled with his bipolar disorder, it drove him to suicide attempts because he knew that if he ever dared to tell anyone he would risk losing many sponsorship deals. Long after he’d retired he told his family in 2005, and finally in 2011 he publicly announced that he was gay.

He offered his support to Daley and said of sponsorships;

“This will make no difference with tolerant and progressive companies in this country,” he said.

“But if those countries have an international presence, there is pressure from eastern Europe to not sponsor gay people. I can’t prove I lost sponsors, but deals that were agreed suddenly disappeared.”

Tom Daley, a national hero after his dramatic Bronze-medal in the London 2012 Olympics:  only the second British diving medal since 1960, revealed via YouTube that he, although he is attracted to women as well, is in a relationship with another man. The nineteen-year-old, regardless of what he has achieved in his sport, has constantly received questions about who he has been dating throughout his young career; such is the gossipy culture of tabloids and magazines in Britain. Originally, he would be ambiguous about it or try to shake off questions, but after he came out to his family and some suggested he do an interview or reveal it to the press he decided instead that it would be best to tell everyone “face to face” as it were to avoid having his words twisted.

Daley himself said in the video;

“In an ideal world I shouldn’t be doing this video because it shouldn’t matter.”

He is correct: why doesn’t it matter when teenagers are in relationships with the opposite sex? Shouldn’t they feel the need to come out as straight? Why are so few sportsmen openly gay?

It doesn’t matter when people are straight because it is so much more common and therefore so much more widely accepted (no culture anywhere actively rejects heterosexuality). But even though it is less common surely the fact that very many people in the world are gay means that it shouldn’t matter whether somebody is gay anyway?

The reason why so few sportsmen have dared tell the world that they are gay is because of the culture sport has. It doesn’t occur as much in diving, but many sportsmen are constantly in the public eye with paparazzi monitoring their every move and they are expected to tell stories of various “juicy” conquests with various WAGS and other celebrities. Footballers, for example, are almost expected to be in relationships with lots of different women and therefore it is very difficult to be a gay footballer.

Take Justin Fashanu. He came out publicly in 1990 and faced constant allegations of affairs with famous figures and even sexual assault. His family rejected him and his own brother, fellow footballer John, called him an “outcast.” The sexual assault case in America caused him to flee to England because in Maryland, where he allegedly committed the assault, homosexuality was illegal at the time and he felt he would not be given a fair trial. He came to England and eventually killed himself.

Times have moved on since then and Daley has received largely a very positive press, being described as brave by many. In the sporting culture where homosexuality is a very taboo subject Daley has shown incredible bravery in risking sponsorships and his reputation by coming out, but why does telling someone your sexual preferences require bravery?

As I said before times are changing and more and more sportsmen are coming out. Fellow British hero Nicola Adams became the first British female boxing champion and with it the first openly gay female boxing champion. In 2010 Welsh Rugby legend Gareth Thomas came out and, although there was uproar amongst some people involved in Welsh Rugby at the time he is starting to be remembered as a talented Rugby player instead of a gay talented Rugby player.

Fellow diver Greg Louganis, the greatest diver and one of the greatest Olympians of all time came out in the 1980s, when homosexuality was really looked down upon and has been vocal in his support for Daley. Both Thomas and Louganis after their respective announcements hoped that other gay sportsmen would be able to follow their example and not worry about losing their reputation and just telling people instead of living life with it bottled up inside of them.

This subject should not matter: but how beautiful that it mattered enough to people that Tom Daley received such incredible support from the masses and so many famous figures have given their support to him as well. The fact that no important figure has come out and criticised Daley shows that this bright spark, who could go on to be one of Britain’s greatest sportsmen, is too loved, too good and too much of a national treasure for a personal detail to spoil his career. This will only add to his confidence and he will be able to go about his business and work towards all of his goals as the real Tom Daley who can do what he wants to do without worrying about what the press might think instead of the Tom Daley who shirks awkward questions about his personal life and has to cover things up.

Although the number is still very small, more and more sportsmen are able  to come out without the pressure that those in the past would have received. As this number increases we can only hope that all the young gay sportsmen out there do not feel the need to cover up who they are in case their reputation should fall.

 

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3 Comments

  1. Chris

    December 4, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    You might want to fix the headline, he’s bisexual not gay. And that might sound trivial but there are apparently quite a lot of bisexuals out there thinking ‘great – someone’s out at last’ and then geting rightfully grumpy because Daley is being reported as gay/homosexual”.

    “It shouldn’t matter – but it does”

    • Ben Kerr, Admin

      December 4, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      I left both words there, while Daley is the inspiration for the article he isn’t the only athlete mentioned either, and some like Louganis are gay not bi-sexual.

      • Chris

        December 4, 2013 at 4:01 pm

        Appreciate it. Makes sense.

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